ARCH 771 / Fall 2020 / Ramsay
As an exercise in “group think”, let me assign a writing exercise that will be valuable in the ongoing project — beyond your time and certainly beyond mine. [I’m presuming a lot here.]
Kate Macdonald, publisher of HandHeld Press, has asked me (some time ago, actually, so the potential may have passed by) to put the Agincourt Project in book form. You can visit her site here: https://www.handheldpress.co.uk/. My initial response/reaction was the dilemma of how to tell the story: Should it be written by one of the characters in town, say Anson Tennant’s great nephew Howard Tabor, who writes for The Daily Plantagenet? Or should it be written by an actual person — most likely by me — as “narrating the story of telling the story”? In other words, is the book a work of fact or fiction? I’ll be interested to have your thoughts. [’ve got a 76th birthday coming up and that seems as good a date as any to have a first draft in hand.
So there is Question #1: What form ought a book about a fictional community take?
The natural follow-up is about the warp and weft of that story. Buildings and the people who designed-built-financed-used-and maintained them can be made to tell a large though incremental part of the narrative. But what other elements of material culture would be useful? And what influences ought to be addressed? For example, has COVID-19 affected the community in a lasting and meaningful way? I suspect so. But what about other major events within and outside the community that also played a role? The influenza pandemic of 1918. The Great Depression and all those “alphabet soup” agencies created to put people to useful work. Wars, like the Civil, WWI, WWII, and Vietnam. Positive influences from philanthropists like Andrew Carnegie — the founder of the feast, so to speak.
I’ve grouped these in three large categories: FORCES (natural conditions over which we have no control, such as climate, geology, etc.); FACTORS (broad cultural phenomena or fads which very often begin elsewhere but have local impact, like government programs, benefactors like the aforementioned Carnegie, or the Stock Market Crash of 1929); and, finally, FACES (of which Carnegie might be one but also including local persons with influence, like teachers, public figures, in or outside government, businesses — even artists and architects who have left a legacy). Sorry, I like alliteration.
So there is Question #2: What elements or topics ought to be considered as significant parts of the story?
For #1 I’d like each of you tackle that basic but vital question. Which approach would engage readers and hold their attention?
For #2 perhaps you could divide in three or four groups and each take on the basic outline of the story. Is chronology the best way to narrate? What other options might be equally good or even better?